NOTE: Sept. 20 is considered to be the last day for Overseas Americans to request their ballots for the election. This should allow enough time for the ballot request to arrive at a voter’s local election office & to follow up with them (highly recommended!) to ensure they are registered. Overseas Americans can request their ballot at http://www.VoteFromAbroad.org
Democrats Abroad (DA), a ‘state’ committee within the DNC, continues to engage in GOTV efforts around the world in preparation for the Nov. election. In Japan, we have a final flurry GOTV events & I wanted to share them with those of you who are working to elect Barack Obama and downticket Democrats.
DA is the Democratic Party organization for the estimated 6 million Americans living outside of the US. We have 8 delegates and we held our first 'Global Primary' from Feb. 5 ~ Feb. 12, 2008, which Obama won with 66% of the vote. In the general election, our members vote thru their home state. Our members come from every state, an important point I’d like to return to later. Howard Dean helped us hire our first ever Executive Director who works at the DNC in D.C. & she helps coordinate our activities.
I am an Oregonian (Go Jeff Merkley! (OR-SEN)) and have been living in Japan for more than 10 years. I am the Vice Chair of Democrats Abroad Japan (DAJ) and wanted to fill you in on our recent GOTV activities.
Being a Democrat Abroad is obviously a little different than it is back home. First and foremost, because the Democrats Abroad ‘state’ covers the rest of the planet and we’re spread all over, it’s a constant struggle to find Americans & let them know that we exist (see my tip jar, please!). On the plus side – and this is the part I love about DA - because our members come from every state, our voter registration efforts benefit every single state, every Congressional race & every Senate race by adding Democratic voters to the rolls. It could be argued that Democrats Abroad adds crucial voters in close elections. In fact, it has been argued that overseas voters provided Jim Webb his margin of victory over George Allen in the ’06 VA Senate race, a race determined by only 9,000 votes.
An inquisitive person, like yourself, might ask ‘how does Democrats Abroad help overseas voters?’ The answer, find Americans and get them to request their ballot! These are some of the activities we have had recently in DAJ.
Weekly Voting Table at a supermarket popular with Americans (and other foreigners) here in Tokyo. The kind, pro-Obama Canadian store manager has allowed us to set up a table every Saturday afternoon since May so that we can help Americans request their ballots. We have expanded the hours from 1pm~7pm thru Sept. 20. At our table Saturday we were joined by a group of girl scouts. Disclaimer: Neither this group of elementary school girls nor their organization endorse any candidate and were simply there to learn about the Democratic process. Additionally we will assist anyone, sometimes reluctantly, regardless of party membership. Fortunately, a good majority of the people we assist register themselves as Democrats.
On this particular day, we registered and/or distributed literature to voters from:
New York: 5
North Carolina: 2
Texas: 3 (including 2 Republicans... D’oh! I'm never happy about this.)
Overall though, a nice balance, I think. I love assisting voters from battleground states and took great pride in assisting Pennsylvanians who went on to fire Rick Santorum in '06 :-)
The previous weekend, in addition to our weekly supermarket table, we also had a table at the US Embassy BBQ that occurs every summer in Tokyo. This was the first time all year that we had been joined by Republicans Abroad Japan (RAJ). As a side note, Republicans Abroad is not recognized as a ‘state’ by the Republican party and they get no delegates; they are simply a fundraising arm of the party, probably as you expected. For those who are interested, when I first came to Japan, I used to attend RAJ meetings in addition to DAJ meetings and their event turnouts were similar to DAJ. Now, RAJ is basically moribund and you can fit their activists into a telephone booth – but only about once a year, at the Embassy BBQ. Anyhow, during this years embassy BBQ, the embassy also staffed it’s own non-partisan table (in the best location) doing registration. Their table was assisting people constantly throughout the day, which is positive, I think, because Americans in Japan seem to prefer Obama overwhelmingly. I met a # of Republicans that day who told me they were voting for Obama. It was the day McCain picked Palin and everyone, including Republicans, was mystified by McCain's horrendous judgement. DAJ was there all day and registered more than 20 people and gave out VoterFromAbroad.org information to countless others:
Last night DAJ started our first Calling-For-Change event, which is phone banking to remind our more than 1,700 members to request their ballots by Sept. 20. Our group in Tokyo made more than 200 calls. And we have many more to make. It was great though. Among the people I spoke to were a Michigan voter who promised he’d register, at least 1 Ohio voter and a member from Florida who told me she already registered AND registered her 3 kids! Here’s a photo of us calling last night – note the NHK (Japanese public television) crew filming us:
Some of you DKos old-timers might recognize the callers; they included Terri (foreground), Hubris Sonic (now one of the proprietors of the fantastic Group News Blog), The Littlest Gator, YoyogiBear (me in the UW Huskies shirt) and Progressive Tokyo (upper left). I met most of them back in ’04 when they started the Tokyo for Dean meetup group. TLG is now a DNC super delegate representing Democrats Abroad, Asia Pacific. Talk about crashing the gates!
And, just for fun, here’s a photo of our Obama Acceptance Speech viewing party held at the Clubhouse Sports Bar (one of our Drinking Liberally sites). Notice the NHK film crew again and notice the clock – it was noon in Tokyo! 27 people showed up that day. Many of them had to miss work in the morning, hence the photo doesn’t show their faces ;-)
We have a series of other events coming up, as well. If the details aren’t yet up on our website, http://www.demsjapan.jp , they will be shortly. These events include:
- Calling for Change, Sept. 8 (tonight, same time at Fujimama’s)
- Yokosuka US Naval Base flyering, Sept. 14 (we’ll post VoteFromAbroad.info and otherwise hand out voter registration information outside of the base – to Democrats)
- Drinking Liberally, Sept. 14 (special Yokohama event, after the work in Yokosuka)
- Chiba Voter Assistance Event: Sept. 14 (Voter Assistance for Americans living East of Tokyo)
- Calling for Change, Sept. 14 (same time, Fujimama’s)
- Drinking Liberally (Tokyo), Sept. 16 (we’ll assist voters there, also, if needed)
- Barack the Vote, Sept. 18 (fundraiser for DAJ & the Obama campaign. Money paid by non-Japanese citizens will be donated to Amnesty International who also does not endorse any candidate).
- Yokohama Country and Athletic Club Food Fair, Sept. 21. We’re cutting it close with this one and it’s ‘non-partisan’. Technically it’s past our deadline, but we’ll try it anyway and see what happens.
This is how we help change America, even when we’re living overseas! Keep in mind that similar efforts are occurring around the world and that DAJ, while not a small committee in DA, is considerably smaller than our largest committees: Canada, Mexico, UK, France, Germany, etc.
Once our deadline passes, we’re planning a training session for DAJ members to learn how to use MyBO effectively for phone banking back to the US, etc. I plan on throwing myself into Oregon GOTV efforts & helping elect Jeff Merkley (OR-Sen), as well.
If you think these efforts are worth supporting, please feel free to drop by our ActBlue page page to help us out. Like I said, it’s difficult to actually find Americans when you live overseas so any help is appreciated. Most of the money goes to pay for advertisements in local media as well as in the international press. And please spread the word to any Americans you know who live overseas! They must send off their absentee ballot request by Sept. 20. They can fill it out quickly and easily at http://www.VoteFromAbroad.org.
The Republicans have almost no presence whatsoever among Overseas Americans. Democrats Abroad is helping register voters at a fantastic clip, all things considered, including 400+ in Japan alone last month. Also encouraging: Obama has taken Howard Dean’s 50 State Strategy to the extreme and has actually hired regional organizers to help get out the overseas American vote. I find that very encouraging and am thrilled by the fact that he has so many people on the ground in so many places in the run-up to this election.
We will all do this together. I cannot wait until the election. I’m so proud of our community at DKos as well as in DA and our activists who are taking the initiative & helping get out the overseas American vote.
Let’s close this deal and usher in a much needed new era!